Demonstrators disrupt visiting prof’s speech at U. of C.

By MATTHEW PINNA
Contributing writer

Pro-Palestinian demonstrators were removed from an April 9 lecture given by George Mason University Law Professor Eugene Kontorovich at the University of Chicago Law School. He was lecturing on the BDS movement, which stands for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctioning of Israeli goods and companies.

Kontorovich is a noted opponent of the BDS movement. In a 2017 Washington Post column, he defended “The Israel Anti-Boycott Act,” arguing that a distinction exists between free expression and doing business:

“Refusing to do business is not an inherently expressive activity,” he wrote. “It is only the boycotter’s explanation of the action that sends a message, not the actual business conduct. Those expressions of views are protected, but they do not immunize the underlying economic conduct from regulation.”

His lecture at the University of Chicago Law School focused on that topic, and a collection of local protestors—supported by the pro-Palestinian group, Jewish Voice for Peace—expressed their opposition. When asked to comment, Jewish Voice for Peace Chicago directed this reporter to one of the lead protestors, who wished to remain anonymous.

He explained that the group believed Kontorovich, through his legal consulting work, to play an active role in making “even more invisible the violence enacted against Palestinians.”

He admitted that in addition to passing out pro-BDS fliers and holding up both a Palestinian flag and a banner with the “BDS demands” on it, protestors chanted: “Free free Palestine; Protesting is not a crime.”

According to eyewitness reports, the protestors’ chants drowned out Kontorovich’s speech, despite attempts by attending students to move closer in order to hear better.

Kontorovich, in a phone interview with The Jewish Journal, said that “at first he tried to have the students gather in a corner of the room and continue his talk there, but the protesters followed suit and continued to chant over him.”

Dean of Students Charles Todd also attempted intervene. It wasn’t until University of Chicago police arrived though, that the protestors left the classroom.

herald@hpherald.com